Answer Bank: Will the new coronavirus co-exist with humans for a long time?
Updated 17:45, 22-Feb-2020
By Pan Zhaoyi

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is likely to turn into a flu-like chronic illness, co-existing with human beings, says Wang Chen, a respiratory expert and president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

Unlike SARS (the severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus, which kills the host very quickly, and then struggles to survive, it's possible the new coronavirus can become seasonal flu, Wang added.

We know very little about the new coronavirus. Some people are infected with the disease, but asymptomatic at the initial period, while some have severe symptoms. 

"The study of the virus is conducive to develop the vaccine. But developing vaccines usually take scientists years, so it's possible that we will be in a long-term coexistence relationship with the new coronavirus," explained Yang Gonghuan, former deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Coexistence between human beings and viruses in nature will last until the vaccines are developed. So far, the majority of viruses are impossible to defeat. The only virus we've wiped out is smallpox, so it's important to regulate human behavior," Yang stressed.

However, many experts across the world believe that the virus itself will be less deadly after several generations' evolution.

"The severity of the infection is expected to decrease over time as the virus adapts to humans. It would then not be surprising if the virus caused flu-like illness like other human coronaviruses," said Benjamin Joh, professor of School of Public Health at Hong Kong University.